In today’s cutthroat corporate world good customer service can be the difference between success and failure. While many businesses talk a lot about customer-focused service, few even know what this means, let alone put it into practice.
Good customer service starts at the top
The company leaders must take the first step in creating a customer-focused culture. Show your commitment to excellent customer service and your staff will follow suit.
Provide encouraging leadership
Studies show that the top leader’s attitude – even mood – makes a big difference in the atmosphere of the organization. If the owner or CEO is generally approachable, good-tempered, and optimistic, the attitude of positivity spreads through the staff. They’re not only happier, but more efficient. It’s easier for them to stay upbeat, even when dealing with rejection and angry customers. A leader with low emotional intelligence, on the other hand, can create a general feeling of stress.
Encourage feedback – even if it’s negative – from your staff. Be open to hearing their honest ideas so you know what impact you’re having on the organization. Once you know the truth you can take steps to deal with any concerns they may have. In this way, you take the lead when it comes to self-improvement and show you really care about your staff.
Have management spend time on the front line
It’s a good idea to have everyone in the company deal with real customers from time to time. They’ll have a greater understanding of the customer’s needs and mindset, instead of working from old (and possibly incorrect) assumptions. It will also give them insight into the customer representatives’ job, allowing them to provide more effective leadership.
Know what good customer service looks like and measure it
What’s really important to your customers? Is it fast service, first-call resolution, the personal touch, being treated with courtesy and empathy? The metrics will vary according to your company and industry. You’ll have to do some research to find out what first-rate service looks like from your customer’s point of view.
Once you know what you’re looking for, set it out in writing and train your staff to provide it. Your staff will be happier because they know how to succeed in your organization. Customers will be happier because they receive consistent service that’s tailored to their needs.
Engaged staff members make for satisfied customers
In fact, research shows that for every 10% rise in employee engagement, customer service levels go up by 5% and profits by 2%. Unfortunately, 20% of customer service reps surveyed were bored out of their skulls.
What can you do to increase engagement and improve customer service? It’s common for people to start a new job with enthusiasm, but as time goes on many start to feel like they’re just going through the motions.
Show customer service reps how important their position is
It’s much easier to value your work when you can see the link between what you do every day and the bottom line. For instance, one company figured out that each customer spent an average of $332,000 over their lifetime with the company. When staff members kept that figure in mind they were able to see what was at stake when dealing with each customer.
Train your staff well and provide regular coaching
It goes without saying that new hires should be fully trained before they go out onto the floor. Use a variety of techniques to give them a well-rounded education in how to keep your customers happy. You can role-play all the common customer interactions so that when they deal with it in real-life they’ll know exactly what to do.
Regular get-togethers are also a great idea. Staff members can share triumphs and brainstorm new ways to deal with problems. You can share the week’s disasters for learning purposes (hiding the identity of the rep involved, of course). Your team can analyze what went wrong and set up procedures to handle it should it come up again.
Coaching and mentoring is a necessity to keep everyone on track. It can be a great way to show that you’re involved with your staff’s progress, as well as improving performance.
Create an inspiring workplace
Motivate your staff members to do their best by creating a culture of empowerment. Trust your staff to use their best judgement – after all, you hired the best people and trained them well, they should know what they’re doing. Tell them what outcome you want and let them figure out how to do it. The very act of solving problems increases staff engagement and satisfaction.
Show your appreciation
Give kudos for a job well-done, and have fun exercises to break up the day. For instance, ask staff members to write thank-you letters to themselves (from the customer’s point of view) after a good service interaction. They can take a minute to enjoy the glow of a job well-done, and also get a better idea of what goes on in a customer’s mind.
Give immediate rewards for good service
A quarterly bonus is great, but an immediate reward is more motivating. It’s easier to connect the desired behavior with the good result if it happens right away. So keep your eyes open and hand out rewards when you see customer-focused service. Things like public praise, a thank-you note, a gift certificate, or extra day off show your staff that you see their good work.
Provide the tools your staff needs to succeed
It’s very frustrating – if not impossible – to do good work with substandard tools. Your staff should have everything they need to do the job right. Fast, intuitive software puts the information they need at their fingertips. Ergonomic office furniture keeps them comfortable throughout the day. If you’re not sure what they need, ask your staff. They’ll be able to tell you.
Excellent customer service doesn’t happen by accident, it’s the result of hard work and proper planning. Take note of these tips and inspire your staff to do their best.